Friday, March 13, 2009

"No, but I read the comic book..."

I've just received some pleasant news which, however, I am not at liberty to share until some later date.

So, in the absence of anything substantial to relate, allow me to be the umpteenth person to offer you . . .

My take on the Watchmen movie

I went to the movie and was pleasantly surprised.  This has got to be one of the most respectful adaptations of a pre-existing work I've ever seen.  Yes, a great deal had to be cut or condensed in order to bring the film in (just) under three hours.  But it was extraordinary how close to the original series this thing came.  The slob intern in the right-wing magazine office at the end looked just like the character in the comic.  The expressions of the cops in the publicity photo with Miss Jupiter matched up one-to-one with the drawing.  An enormous amount of work and ingenuity went into delivering to the fans exactly what they hoped they'd be getting.

So why is everybody so disappointed?

One reason, I think.  Against all reason they expected the film to be better than the comic.  This is a particularly American delusion, compounded of movie-worship and the idea that the more money goes into a thing, the better it will be.  

But in matters of art, once a certain level of craft has been mastered, what matters is artistic vision and that Alan Moore had in spades.  Watchmen was a landmark in its genre.  What were the odds a movie was going to top it?

One of the guys in Showcase Comics in Bryn Mawr a while back was trying to interest me in a comic book adaptation of one of Cory Doctorow's stories.  I told him I'd read the original and he (in friendly way, I hasten to add) suggested I was being snobbish by valuing print over graphic novels.

"Well," I said.  "Name one novelization of a comic book that was better than the original."

So, too, here.  

Good movie, though.



selfnoise said...

I'm not sure who the disappointed people are; I haven't spoken to many people about the film so far. I was disappointed because it was a faithful adaptation of the comic, and not a good film. It felt if anything too obsessed with some kind of fictional notion of accuracy. I don't want to see Zach Snyder's notion of what Alan Moore's notion of Watchmen is; I want to see Zach Snyder's notion of Watchmen.

I do understand, though, that there has been tremendous pressure on filmmakers and anyone who is doing an adaptation to be "true" to the work, or suffer the wrath of the internets. But art isn't something that can pass from creator to adapter to viewer without change and feel alive. What happens instead is that we get a mishmash of Snyder's interpretation of the comic without the conviction to see it through in a way that would make the vision coherent.

Sorry to deposit my snark here, but this happened to be the Watchmen-related blog post I was reading when I ate the wafer-thin mint.

Michael Swanwick said...

Not at all a snark, selfnoise, just an honest opinion reasonably explained.

Thank God, you stopped at the thin mint, though, and didn't drink the Kool-Aid.

Pebble Texture said...

Uh, I think that drinking the Kool-Aid would be preferable to the wafer-thin mint...urp...

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